Some of Australia's most prominent judicial offices are preparing to fly to Hong Kong to meet with their counterparts and improve the state of law across the Commonwealth.
The individuals representing the best of the rule of law in the Commonwealth will meet at the bi-annual Commonwealth Law Association's (CLA) conference in April, to hear from keynote speakers on the state of law across the Commonwealth, and to develop policies and statements on human rights and justice issues relevant to participating countries.
Keynote addresses will be delivered by Justice Michael Kirby and Geoffrey Robertson QC as well as members from the UN's Special Court for War Crimes and International Justice Council.
TressCox partner and president of the CLA, Ron Heinrich, told Lawyers Weekly one of the most important aspects of the event is a session called "lawyers on the front line". The session allows delegates to hear lawyers from countries such as Zimbabwe, Fiji, India and Kenya speak on some of the difficulties of practising law in their region.
Heinrich said one of the main issues on the agenda would be developing a CLA policy on capital punishment. With the death penalty still operational in on some countries throughout the Commonwealth, Heinrich said that the CLA feels compelled to intervene and make statements on behalf of those affected.
"Whether we get agreement on that and adopt a position remains to be seen," he said. "Normally, coming out of these conferences there is a series of resolutions (and statements)."
Heinrich said delegates will also hear from lawyers in Pakistan who have protested about being removed from office by the president. He added that some of these lawyers have spent a considerable amount of time in jail due to their persistence in upholding the law. Some have also been beaten and maimed because of who they have attempted to represent.
Unlike other legal conferences, Heinrich said the event offers more than just a forum for networking, with the CLA regularly filing Amicus Briefs and submissions to courts following the event.
Over the last four years, a number Amicus Briefs have been filed in the US Supreme Court in relation to matters such as human rights at Guantanamo Bay. "We don't try to tell the authorities what they should do or what their law is - we take a comparative law analysis and say 'This is what the law is in the Commonwealth'."
Heinrich said the US Supreme Court has in most instances adopted the submissions of the CLA in whole, or in part, when giving their judgments.
The conference will also provide a platform for Heinrich to bring a close to his 18-month presidency of the CLA.
- Angela Priestley